Dezent präsent

Dezent präsent: discreetly present.

There are some things which the Germans do not address openly. One is money, salary, personal wealth. If they have much, they avoid showing it. Boasting, bragging, swaggering in any way is considered to be very bad taste.

Respected and honored are those with wealth who live it in a dezent (discreet) way. This is true especially for senior-level executives who demonstrate deep subject-area expertise combined with a staid, conservative manner or demeanor.

“Showmasters” and “speech-makers” in Germany can be entertaining, at times even motivating. But those who are truly listened to and valued are those who put substance (subject matter) before form (person).

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, former Minister of Commerce, then Minister of Defense, is a case in point. When he became minister in 2009 it was clear from the outset that there was a rather slick public relations approach to highlighting his political work and private life.

Guttenberg was a constant presence in the German media: the worldly man about town at Times Square in New York City; the rough and tough man dressed in a special forces uniform visiting the troops in Afghanistan; and as a man of the people on the popular variety tv-show “Wetten, daß ….?”

Guttenberg became very popular very quickly. He had brought fresh air into stodgy German politics. Over time, however, he gained more and more critics, who began to question his expertise. When it was then proven that he had plagiarized in his doctoral dissertation, he resigned his office in disgrace and disappeared from the German political scene.